The Minnetonka City Council has approved a mountain bike trail through Lone Lake Park that some fear will compromise habitat and potentially displace the rusty patched bumblebee, a federally listed endangered species that has been spotted in the park.
The 5-2 vote came well after midnight Tuesday in packed council chambers. Dozens of people testified for 2½ hours, with comments evenly split between off-road bike enthusiasts and environmentalists.
“I think mountain bikers have been unfairly vilified,” said Council Member Tim Bergstedt, adding that they care as much about the environment and getting people outside as trail opponents.
Council members Bob Ellingson and Rebecca Schack voted against the trail plan, which passed with the condition that the city annually reviews the trail’s impact.
Other council members expressed disappointment over the black-and-white tenor of the debate. Of the several hundred e-mails that council members said they received, Bergstedt said he couldn’t recall more than a few that offered any sort of compromise.
Council Member Susan Carter said she also had hoped for more “negotiation and nuance” in the debate, but thanked residents who voiced their views.
“What happened [at the council meeting] is the best of Minnetonka,” she said. “It’s people coming out, using their voices and protecting something they feel is sacred.”
In September 2018, the nonprofit Protect Our Minnetonka Parks sued the city, challenging its denial of an assessment of the trail’s environmental impact. The state Court of Appeals upheld the City Council’s decision, but last month the group petitioned the state Supreme Court to review the ruling.
“At a minimum, the decision [on the plan] should have been deferred until the [Minnesota] Supreme Court decides how to handle this case,” said Marshall Tanick, an attorney representing the nonprofit.